“My Happy Place” is a weekly Press series in which local notables take us on a tour of a favorite spot in their home.(tncms-asset)5e72694b-eb07-56df-9bb5-b1b74f94a039[0](/tncms-asset)

MAYS LANDING — Immediately after Michael Weiss opens the gate to the backyard of his Mays Landing home, clucking chickens make their presence known.

The chickens lay eggs that Weiss uses in his cooking.

“My cooking philosophy is farm-to-table,” Weiss said.

Weiss is the executive chef at Assaggio! Italian Restaurant in Egg Harbor City, and his “Happy Place” is his large backyard, complete with a gazebo, a trampoline, a patio with a slow cooker and grill, two fire pits, a garden and a chicken pen.

Weiss built the pen with his son, Colby, 16, who studies engineering at Atlantic County Institute of Technology. Weiss said Colby’s knowledge of engineering came in handy during the design and building process.

“It was a fun project for us to work on together,” he said.

The garden was built for his wife, Tracy. Weiss was able to recycle the casing his gazebo was delivered in and turn it into a garden in which he grows squash, peas, peppers and basil.

Weiss did not have much prior experience before embarking on some of his larger outdoor projects, like building a fence or a chicken pen, but he has always enjoyed working with his hands and learned as he went along

Weiss moved into his home in 1998 and began making changes on the first day. Where there once was an above-ground swimming pool and a yard covered in sand, now lies an open yard perfect for family time.

“You always want to keep improving your house, making it nicer inside and out,” Weiss said. “We’re always working on it. The progress never stops.”

Whether enjoying a picnic, spending time with Tracy or watching his children Josephine, 6, and Colby practice soccer, some of the best moments of Weiss’ day happen in his backyard.

“I’m a family man, and I love family time,” he said.

Another aspect of Weiss’ happy place he enjoys is being surrounded by nature. Behind his property spans 400 acres of untouched land, which represents opportunities for hiking, fishing and kayaking.

Weiss developed a strong bond with nature growing up, taking hikes in the woods and going on fishing trips, and it is something he has passed on to his children.

After a long day at Assaggio!, Weiss appreciates having a place where he can spend time outside and unwind.

“I like to come out here and just enjoy life after a long day of running the kitchen,” he said.

ONLINE

See more photos of Michael Weiss’ ‘Happy Place’ and watch a video at PressofAC.com.

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